Emma Galasso: Creativity Up The Coast

For my STEP project I embarked on a 14-day road trip through the American east coast in order to spark inspiration for new novel/story ideas through a variety of experiences and exposure to new areas and communities.

Even with extensive planning beforehand, this project was logistically challenging. It is impossible to anticipate every problem that could arise, and during our trip there were several moments of stress and confusion, such as when our hostel in Philadelphia did not have free parking as was implied on the hostel website.

One of my best friends from home went on this trip with me, and though we have lived together before, this trip was still a test of our friendship. I am happy to say that nothing bad happened, but we had to work together to coordinate who was driving when, when to eat, what to eat, where to eat, and other small but important things.

Something that surprised me was how food can really show the culture of a city or town. Each day we went out for one or two meals, and each area had a new twist and taste on things. McDonald’s in the northeast has lobster bisque, for instance, and a real Philly cheesesteak is very different than what I’ve seen in Ohio.

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I have also learned that fourteen days simply isn’t enough time to experience new things! Our arrival and departure to each city had a quick turnaround time, and many places were very hard to leave. Maine, for example, was somewhere we should have allotted more time to experience. That said, fourteen days on the road was a very long time when we were sleeping at a new place each night. Our hostels were all great, but there’s no place like home.

Creatively, this project did not inspire me as I hoped it would. However, I did gain a wealth of new ideas and experiences to draw from when writing. One of the most inspiring places we visited was West Point Military Academy. I originally wanted to go there and become a cadet, so visiting was nostalgic in some ways, though I had never been there before. Trophy Point was arguably one of the most beautiful spots on our trip, and seeing the new cadets reminded me how my life has taken a different course.

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Since my trip I have written over 10,000 words in various fiction pieces, but none of them have yet been finished. I attribute this partly to my busy schedule, but also because of the seldom-successful “forced inspiration.” I believe that in the near future, I will be cranking out another novel, but I will need the right combination of free time and determination to do it.

This experience helped me to discover more about America, and gave me a wider appreciation for the natural beauty this country possesses. I met a wide variety of people from all kinds of different countries and cultures with no bad experiences to speak of; from talking about travel with a Canadian literature professor vacationing in Cape Cod to teaching a Mexican college student new card games in Philadelphia. Traveling with someone my age and not with my parents and family gave traveling a wonderful new twist.

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Logistically, my STEP experience has shown me the importance of travel. My family doesn’t travel outside of Ohio very often, but this trip allowed me to experience so many unique cities and landscapes. I want to travel the country more often, and revisit the places that influenced me the most: Maine, Martha’s Vineyard, Philadelphia, and West Point. I learned from this experience that traveling is relatively cheap if you do it right, and being young allows me to be able to enjoy staying in cheap housing like hostels that would be difficult for families, for example.

Creatively, my goal is still to write another novel before I finish college. This trip gave me a wealth of new material to draw from, all of which was recorded in my idea journal along the way. I also got a lot of time to read while on this trip, and a creative goal for me is to read for pleasure more often. The best writer are the best readers, and I have been slacking in that area for awhile now. Hopefully, I will be able to accomplish my goal during spring semester!

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Rachael Nagel: Reporting Back

Artistic and Creative Endeavor: Merchandising Career and Chicago

1. My STEP project was unique in the fact that it had both a trip component and a research component. My project entailed visiting the city of Chicago. During my visit to the city I not only experienced the atmosphere and tourist activities, I also did research on what companies look for in their merchandise buyers and how to become successful in my desired career field.

2. When I first started to plan this trip, I was both nervous and excited. I had no clue what it was like to travel to and stay in such a large city and had barely any knowledge of my desired career field besides what I had researched through the internet. I had been interested in pursuing a major in marketing and a minor in fashion and retail studies, but I had no clue how to take those academic components and transform them into a career as a merchandise buyer. Also, to be a merchandise buyer, and even be successful in marketing, it is almost an unspoken fact that you have to live in a big city, such as Chicago, New York City, or San Francisco. Since I had never been to such large cities, I had no idea what to expect.

Traveling to Chicago by myself was a huge leap of faith to take. This trip and research that I did ultimately decided for me whether or not I would stay in my major and minor programs. Through this, I learned necessary daily skills and activities that buyers must do in order to achieve their careers and also to stay successful in them once they get the job. I also learned more about city life, such as visiting Buckingham Fountain, Millennium Park, Navy Pier, and attending a horse race near the city. I learned that my expectations of my future career and potential living locations were quite spot on, but seeing these things and hearing about them first hand made me believe that although my goals will be hard to reach, they are achievable with hard work and dedication. Through this experience I learned that I truly have chosen the right career path and academic components in order to help me get there. I also learned that although the city can be overwhelming at first, it really is a place I could see myself living directly after college and immediately enjoying.

3. During my trip to Chicago, I was very lucky in the sense that I was able to experience many different aspects of the city and visit various large retailers and speak with some people in my desired profession. The first thing that lead to my personal transformation was visiting the city itself. While I was in Chicago, I visited many of the typical tourist attractions, but I also got to experience daily city life for myself. For example: my first day in Chicago, I look a train into the city to avoid heavy morning traffic. Upon getting to the city, I took a cab to my first desired location, an outdoor vendor market. I spent time at the local market, then took another cab to get to “The Magnificent Mile,” the stretch of North Michigan Avenue with all of the prominent retailers in the city. While at “The Magnificent Mile” I was able to go to several different retailers and discuss being a buyer with the management staff, which I will discuss later. After “The Magnificent Mile” I walked to lunch at a Chicago favorite, Geno’s Pizza. After this, I took another cab to visit the attraction known as The Bean. At the end of the day, I look another train back to the hotel. My first day in Chicago was busy, but gave me the first glimpse of what life is like in the city. It was eye-opening how large Chicago is, to the point where you have to take cabs and trains which I had never done before. This experience began my transformation of experiencing what my future living situation and daily life and commute might be like.

The second aspect that lead to my transformation was talking to various retailers about the various aspects that go along with being a merchandise buyer. I learned that to be a successful merchandise buyer, you must pay close attention to fashion trends in order to know what type of product to purchase for your desired target customers. Also, you must consider what the customer needs and how you can make that work with your suppliers’ products and prices. You can either be in charge of one specific category of merchandise, or you can be in charge of purchasing for the entire store depending on the size of the corporation you work for. In addition to buying the merchandise, a buyer is also responsible to come up with displays for this merchandise. In addition, I learned that prior retail experience is imperative to going into the field of merchandise buying.

To further my discussion with retailers in Chicago, I asked them to tell me a little bit about the characteristics they look for in their buyers. Although the responses varied, it was a general consensus that there a few main things that companies look for when hiring buyers. Among these qualities are a passion for clothing, organization, decisiveness, strong communication and negotiation skills, creativity, analytical skills, and have knowledge about colors, patterns, materials, and other things regarding garment construction. In addition, when corporations are looking for buyers, they look for a college degree in art, fashion, or business, especially marketing. Although I previously believed that being a buyer was a simple task, from talking to these retailers I realized just how many attributes you must personally possess in order to be successful. I also realized that if I want a career as a merchandise buyer, there are some skills that I should begin to improve upon now, like my organization and communication skills. Although I believe I possess the necessary skills to be a successful buyer, there is always room for improvement and I am glad these retailers were able to discuss these areas with me. I was also exceptionally glad when I found out that my marketing major is a typical major that most buyers have taken on, since I was originally not sure if my major would help me or hurt me in this field.

4. The personal development I achieved through completing my STEP experience will be beneficial to my future without a doubt. Taking this trip to Chicago enabled me to step out of my comfort zone and see what my future will likely be like, both in terms of living style and career path. I was able to learn exactly what a buyer is, what their daily responsibilities are, what the different types of companies look for in their buyers, and how to get my foot in the door for one of these careers. With my newfound background knowledge of merchandising buying, I will have an added advantage as I continue in my education and look for a career in the future.

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Buckingham Fountain

Buckingham Fountain

Jason Wan, touring as a manager

My STEP project involved me using my funds in order to accelerate the growth of my record label Aurora Records. I used grant money received to buy recording equipment as well as use some of the money for touring. This allowed us to create EPs and then travel to Atlanta and Charlotte and perform.

I knew this would be a tough job going in. My artists are very temperamental and difficult to work with at times. Also, some of them I realized, view this not as a way to go and perform their music, but as an escape. I definitely saw who was serious and who was just in for fun. I expected a lot from my artists and some of them delivered and some of them did not. I quickly realized in my limited scope of my company I cannot support people who do not share my dream. These artists were quickly dropped. The ones that have always been consistent though, were fantastic. I enjoyed touring with them for every second of it. There were times for fun and there was a lot of practice, but I admired my artists that knew the difference in those times. I think out of anything in this project, you can’t help people that don’t want to be helped. If people don’t put in the work, then they won’t help you and they won’t help themselves. Originally, I viewed my artists through a very optimistic lens; I thought if given the chance, they would surely give it their all and put on a wonderful show. That ended up not being the case. So I think out of everything, I’ve learned support the artists that really want to be an artist.

There were a lot of moments that pushed this revelation. I think one of the biggest ones was one of my artists that showed up absurdly inebriated to his own show. He not only failed to put on a good performance, but he tarnished any rapport I might have built with the venue. Afterwards, he did not take his actions seriously and seem unperturbed by his behavior, even more infuriating was his lack of regard for the effort that the team put in.

Besides just people showing up intoxicated, I had artists not be prepared. I had an incident where an artist completely forgot his equipment and was unable to go on. He’s a fantastic artist, but he has no organization. While he was upset, this is not the first time it has happened. I think the most disappointing thing was the fact that this has happened in the past and I thought he would have rectified this problem by now.

But my tour was not filled by disappointment. One of my smaller artists blew me away. Not only was he prepared, but his set was flawless. He hit every cue and he actually had a performance planned out to go with his song. It was amazing. Needless to say, I shifted a lot more resources into him. He also took a lot of mental notes during the performance. It was impressive to say the least.

This was a significant change for me because as I delve into the music industry I will need to recognize qualities that are detrimental to an artist. I do not want to waste my time with people that will not take what they are doing seriously. I have always been able to see this is more practice applications, but seeing them in music is different especially since people in the industry are a different breed than the typical individual. While I understood this mentality was going to appear, I did not realize that the lack of effort on an artist’s part would appear so early.

This lack of professionalism is an important milestone in any aspect of of my life. It is easy to go through the motions, it’s even more impressive to fake them. However, recognizing when someone “fakes it to make it” has jarred me a bit. I know the signs, but more than anything I’m disappointed in them. When we used to talk about what we were going to do when we toured, we always had great ideas. We talked about a lot of things. We promised we would do x,y,z or any number in between. But that was as friends, we’re supposed to be professionals. If music is to be a career, we need to take things seriously, and I think for myself, I need to know that we have a professional relationship as well. I learned that no matter how close to them I get, my artists are still clients. That friend/professional relationship became intertwined because of our situation of touring together for a period of time. But it must remain separated. Business is business and no amount of time together, ordeals that have been overcome together, and the moments that have been shared can change that. I want to make a living and so do they. If I’m to be a professional I need to separate myself in anything I do. This could be school or business, but those are still different aspects of my life. I think I might have to distance myself from my artists in the future. To sum it up, I can’t let my feelings get in the way, as ruthless as that may sound, I’m going to do my best and I’ll know when people can’t help me. I’ll give them advice and hope they improve; but if they can’t our relationship will have to end there.

Gojira performing in Atlanta.

Gojira performing in Atlanta.

Once of my artists during a sound check.

Once of my artists during a sound check.

 

Sierra Mollenkopf, An Artist’s Blog

I started my STEP project as a Bachelor of Fine Arts. During my STEP project, my career goals shifted. I realized that though I am passionate about art, I wanted it to remain a hobby for me. I decided to pursue a job in human service through social work. Through Social work, I hope to use my art knowledge in art therapy.

I also realized that a lot of work must go into self-promotion as an artist. Self-promotion and networking is critical to establishing a career as an artist. I found myself anxious about the concept of self-promotion, and this anxiety was causing me to lose the joy I took in my work. The creation of my artist blog allowed me to understand that I would rather make art for personal satisfaction.

One challenge I faced was the personal dilemma of making art from a personal base vs. art for others. Initially I had create my website as a space for gallerists to view my work and see if they would like to hang my photographic and mixed media pieces on their walls. However, as I changed majors, the purpose of my website changed. I am still very much interested in art; however I didn’t need to uphold a professional rigor as I did when I aspired to be a fine artist. I chose a blog format for my website as a way to clarify my thoughts on my artistic experiments, and to connect to viewers.

The act of creating art is a therapeutic form of expression for me. I can explore ideas and feelings that I wouldn’t necessarily have the words for. This led me to become interested in the field of art therapy and helping professions in general. In art therapy, one helps vulnerable populations, such as children the elderly, and the mental or physically ill to express their experiences visually. Art therapy proves especially helpful to populations such as children, or the developmental disabled, who do not have a strong language base for expression.

Researching Art therapy, helped me deiced that I wanted to go into the helping field as a career. I would gain greater satisfaction seeing others use art to their benefit, as compared to myself making art for a profit.

My STEP project helped to introduce me to a field, Social Work that I may have not considered previously. Though I was initially interested in art therapy, taking classes in the social work curriculum has opened my eyes to many different career possibilities. My STEP project has also allowed me to become more playful with my work, and has allowed me to better explore my artistic interests.

http://sierramollenkopf.com/

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Katie Frank Creative and Artistic Reflection

Katie Frank

Creative and Artistic Endeavor 

1.      For my STEP project I wanted to expand upon using my creativity and utilize the medium of digital art to help me in pursuing a future in some artistic field. My project entails using a GoPro to take interesting pictures throughout a calendar year and recreating them in the digital art form of a Cintiq art tablet that connects to my computer.

2.     While completing this STEP project, although I am still in the process, I have learned a great deal about myself and the world around me. About myself, I have come to the realization that I have a lot more patience than I previously thought. Creating digital art is a lot harder than I assumed it would be and it requires focus, a steady hand, and a great deal of practice. The patience I have had to find within myself to continue to practice and get better at using this equipment has allowed me to realize that I do possess the potential to grow and get better.

During my STEP process, my perspective of the world around me has been changed. I now find myself seeing beauty and potential in things that I would have previously never paid much attention to. I look at something and think to myself – how can I recreate that? I now notice small details and the way shadows and textures make up our world and the things we see. I now appreciate how lighting can completely change the mood/feelings conveyed in a setting. I am so thankful and appreciative for the new found value and observance of my surroundings.

3.      My very first time interacting with the tablet, I had to get familiar with the setup of the equipment and all the software. After that, I had to experiment with the different components of the drawing program, such as the tools (paint brush, pencil, pen, airbrush, etc) and their size/color options. All of the familiarization with the equipment took about 5 hours. From the time I opened a blank slate for my first project to the time I put on the finishing touches took about 15 hours, and the picture was formulated on a slate the size of an average computer screen. A piece that size would have never taken me that long had I used paper and pencils. This new foreign way of creating art was challenging and required large amounts of patience and perseverance to want to continue in getting better.

Since half of my project consists of taking the initial picture with my GoPro, I have developed a hyper-sensitive awareness of the details that make up my surroundings. When thinking of a new project to begin, I want the picture I use to convey a certain emotion or feeling. I want to be able to touch people with my art in a subjective but powerful way. That being said, I am always looking for images that would be aesthetically pleasing but also thought provoking. This has led me to pay extra close attention to the details that make up what we see and how each small piece of the environment (such as shading and texture) makes up the larger and very beautiful picture. I am so thankful for this attention and appreciation of detail because I now see so many more dimensions of beauty in my environment than I used to.

Finally, I think the most important take away that I have gotten from this STEP project personally is my desire to grow and improve in areas that I enjoy. In college, I feel as though we are put on a safe path to secure a safe job after we graduate. We are constantly preached to on the importance of being the best at everything everyone else is trying to do so employers pick you over them. My STEP project allowed me to capitalize on the fact that we all have unique talents, and we should not give them up or shy away from cultivating them simply because they do not correlate with a certain major.

4.     The personal change and development I was able to develop through this STEP experience is valuable for both my personal and professional goals. My personal goals include finding joy in all that I do and leaving everything/everyone a little better than the way I found it. Having the opportunity to capture such beautiful detail and recreate it in my own interpretive style brings me such joy. Art has always been a large part of my life, and being able to pursue it has been an incredibly enriching experience. In addition, the friends and family that I show my art to have expressed their enjoyment with humbling words and the request that I produce more. This directly ties into my other personal goal of leaving things/others better than the way I found them; bringing others joy through my art brings me such an overwhelming sense of pride and fulfillment.

My professional goals include being able to tie in my art and creativity into some type of business setting, or even starting my own business/gallery. Having this advanced technology at my fingertips to practice and utilize my talent makes me all the more prepared for the fast-paced art industry in the 21st century. This equipment will also help me develop a strong portfolio to show to potential clients that are interested in commissioning me for private pieces, or even businesses that would be interested in hiring me for their creative departments.

 

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Ian Pelfrey Thailand 2015

STEP Reflection: Thailand

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My Step project was a cultural experience combined with an artistic endeavor.  I traveled to Thailand with a college age tour group for fourteen days and took pictures to create a blog of the experience later.

After my experience in Thailand I’ve come to see several things differently. There are a lot of street vendors in Thailand, in the cities and out in the countryside. I spent a lot of time talking with the few I could find who spoke enough English. They made their living selling whatever they could, in America they would be living in poverty. But in Thailand things are different. Universal healthcare benefits everyone and these stall vendors only had to make a small amount of money every year. It’s easier to be poor in Thailand, you don’t pay taxes on what you sell and what you make, and because of the Buddhist foundations of the country there were always temples to go to and sleep in to get back on your feet. There’s more community help, families still live together and support one another. I always thought the American way of life was the default, but there are more viable options than just grow up get a job and retire.

I had also been to the tribal lands in the west of the country and whatever they couldn’t trade for they made themselves. The near self-sufficient village life is something I had never seen before in America and it was refreshing to see people so free of the systems that our society relies upon.  It was these village people that made me realize this world is so much more diverse than I had previously thought.

Also in talking with my local guide about the history of Thailand we got to talking about the Vietnam War from the Thai perspective. Thailand fought with us in the war until the end. But while the US pulled out Thailand was still right there and had to suffer insurgencies and conflict for many years. The fallout of our American wars has always been a topic of discussion here in our country but to meet people who lived in fear of communist guerrillas when they were kids made think more about America’s role in the world today.

Additionally, I had never really thought of Buddhism as a world religion before I traveled to Thailand. I had known that it existed and was popular but I couldn’t comprehend how a non-theistic religion could actually be so large. While in Thailand our group explored several of the holiest Buddhist shrines. In Chang Mai I met a monk at the great temple there who told me a great deal about Buddhism in Thailand. Thailand’s population is overwhelmingly Buddhist and its tenets of reincarnation and the role of monks as a way to purge negative karma from oneself are found throughout the country. After my trip I have a lot more knowledge and respect for Buddhism.

This was a very valuable trip for me in a number of ways. I think the perspective gained on my life in the United States has been the biggest change. Traveling to Thailand has allowed me to frame my existence in this world. When someone asks, do you know that you are living in the richest country in the world? Before my trip I could say yes I realize this but once you have been to the other side of the world or really to any other developing country with a growing population there is this realization that I really have been taking everything for granted. Clean water and a world class education and a stable society are almost given to me and it took traveling to Thailand and meeting people who knew they would never get to see that to realize it. Also that just because you don’t have everything the west does doesn’t make you unhappy. People can read this and think, ‘Yeah I knew this already,’ but it’s different to experience it firsthand.

A lesser change has been my relationship between the camera and me. This trip was partially an exercise of my photography skills after I had taken the intro photo course here at OSU. Most people don’t think twice about bringing a camera with them on vacation, how else are they supposed to remember it? Taking photos of an event has become synonymous with actually experiencing that event. The camera becomes a buffer to the outside world, pictures come through the aperture and imprint upon our digital memory. I came to resent needing to take all the photos. I had to constantly have an eye out for good shots or parts of Thailand I thought others should see. I realized what I really wanted was to abandon the camera and just immerse myself in the experience. Some people enjoy that hunt for the best shot or the right lighting. I know myself better now in that for me to truly enjoy a place I don’t want photos of it. I don’t want to brag online about it. I just want it to happen.

My future as a chemist won’t be greatly affected by my time in Thailand. In subtle ways it might, I could better empathize with coworkers form different places, and maybe some small effects from my greater knowledge of eastern Asia. But I feel my future as a person has benefitted from my time in Thailand more. I honestly believe meeting people from a culture entirely different from my own and seeing just how similar people are despite their circumstances has made me a better person.  I also have figured out how I want my relationship to my camera. On true vacation the camera is superfluous for me. But as a tool to make art I still value the camera now that I have had this experience to hone my skills at photography.

 

A Link to my experience blog: https://ianthailand2015.wordpress.com/

Ben Snyder-Step Reflection

Ben Snyder

STEP Reflection Essay

For my STEP project, I took piano lesson during the summer months of 2015. With the bulk of my grant money, I bought a new electric keyboard that would have the necessary features to mimic a real piano (weighted keys, pedals, etc.). The remaining money went towards paying for the piano lessons themselves, and buying the music and books that I would need during the summer.

During the summer and over the course of my piano lessons, I was able to further explore and discover my love for music. Throughout my high school band career (playing trumpet), I had mostly played more contemporary/modern music. However, during my piano lessons, I was able to explore and play songs from the classical genre. I have always enjoyed listening to classical piano music, and am often amazed by what some people can play on a piano. Having the chance to begin playing songs from the classical genre has broadened and increased my appreciation for that style of music, and also the skill that it takes to play it well on a piano. I understand now why some people take piano lessons for ten or more years.

The first major aspect of my STEP experience that led to my deeper understanding and appreciation of classical piano music is obviously the piano lessons themselves, and the practicing that accompanied them. In a summer where I was taking five classes, two of them being seven-week engineering classes, piano lessons and practicing piano provided a welcome and necessary break from my academic pursuits. Through my lessons and practicing, I was able to gain a better understanding of music theory and classical piano music, which were subjects within music that I’ve always wanted to look into more but have never found the right opportunity. Through STEP, I was able to have that opportunity, and as a result I have come to a broader understanding and deeper appreciation of music.

The second major aspect of my STEP project that helped me with my transformation was my piano tutor. Her vast library of music, knowledge, and teaching skills helped me get the most out of my STEP experience. She was willing to work with me even though she knew I’d be on a compressed time-scale (three months isn’t very long to take lessons), and she allowed students to largely pick the songs that they wanted to learn how to play (she would play you a sample of four or five songs, and you would select the one you liked the sound of best to learn). Her flexibility and being able to choose which songs I wanted to play really helped me engage with the process of learning to play the piano. This really benefitted me, as I feel like I was able to get the most out of my experience, and thus gained a deeper appreciation for music, and also the skill and dedication it takes to become good at playing the piano.

One final and very important aspect to my STEP project being a success was the support of my parents. Having your family support you as you pursue your interests and hobbies is crucial, especially if you’re trying something new. My parents have always been supportive of my pursuits in music, and my piano lessons proved to be no different. Their support helped through the down times in lessons, especially in the beginning when I would be frustrated and feel like I wasn’t making good progress. As I persevered through the rough times with their help, I found that my skills and abilities started to grow much quicker, and that by the end of the summer I truly felt that I had got the most out of my piano lessons, in no small part thanks to my parents. Their continued support and encouragement led to the progress I made in piano playing, which led to my greater understanding and appreciation of music in general, and classical music in particular.

Through my small number of piano lessons, I realized that even though I didn’t start at age five, I can still learn piano well into my adult life, and in fact my teacher’s oldest student was in his seventies. You are truly never too old to learn something new, and I hope to continue piano lessons in the future. As an engineer whose working hours will be filled with numbers, data, and experiments, I believe music will play an important role in providing a much needed balance to my life.

Further, I believe that music is one of the few universal ties we share as humans. One can have two people (or even a large group of them) with disparate backgrounds, who speak different languages, who have never met before, give them all sheet music, and create a work of art that everyone can listen to and enjoy. Very few things, if any, have the ability to bring together random strangers and create something worthwhile and meaningful. That, in my view, is the true power of music. Music is not merely notes on a page, it is a representation of the human experience, something we can all relate to, in a way that words could never replicate.

Miss Guinee North America

Pageant week at Miss Guinee North America was a week along of training and preparations for the professional world and the non-profit industry. During the week, I attended meetings, summits, African Heritage Month and a leadership conference where I had the opportunity to present my humanitarian work of providing elementary students with school lunches in Conakry, Guinee.

I went into the pageant week with the ambitious to work on my project, during the week, I found out that it is not as easy as I thought it will be for me to get my idea out there and sale it well. I needed to learn techniques and how to get my donor’s attention to invest in my project. One of the most important lesson I learned was “good things comes to those who wait”. Pageant week gave me the opportunity to broaden my horizons and think outside the box, it showed me that I have a voice that needs to be heard and I must be heard. As I continue to work on my project, laying out the blueprints and step by step guide of how I want to start my non-profit, I learned that with passion behind any work, anything is possible.

At the leadership conference held on the last day of the week, I had the privilege to meet the keynote speaker, MacDella Cooper, a Liberian-American woman that is the founder of the MacDella Cooper Foundation, where the foundation provides orphans with food, shelter; clothing and most importantly free education. She was born in Liberia and at the age of 12 had to evacuate due to the civil war. Cooper and her family moved to New York for a more sustainable life. She had the chance to model during her teenage years and graduated from college and took on the fashion industry in New York, however, at the end of the day when she would read the newspapers she would read disheartening stories about Liberia and how her motherland is suffering and she is living the American dream. So she decided to do something about the children that are suffering from the world because they are the nation’s future leaders and she started her foundation. Through it all one of the most important thing to Cooper is unity, she believes that we are one and we all have a common goal and we should work toward it together.

On the fourth day of pageant week, the contestants had the opportunity to attend the African Heritage Month Festivities in Silver Springs, Maryland. At the event, the United Nation’s Ambassador, Amina Ali, spoke to the group about agenda 2063, the plans that are planned for bettering Africa and empowering the women and increasing the social economics status. She also mentioned President Obama’s recent visit to Kenya and how he has empowered the youths to reach for higher education. President Obama’s visit entrusted the youths that there is still hopes in making it out of poverty.

Pap Falls, is an entrepreneur, I had the opportunity to interact with him during the conference, Falls owns a non-profit organization where disable individuals make jewelries and the proceeds from the funds go toward the education of disable youths, providing them with the proper equipment they need for survival. His aspiration came from his mother that always helped the needy and growing up he thought that he had to be rich to help others, he needed to own many things in order to give back and after a while he saw that he was not getting anywhere, he started making jewelries from cloths and one by one cottons becomes cloths.

The week was filled with powerful and phenomenal leaders that inspired me, and has truly contributed to my project, they have helped me grow and understand the industry I am moving toward. This has transformed me and encourages me to continue to thrive for my organization, I have learned that I do not need to have millions to provide help to others or fulfill my dreams.

My current view of the world is significant because I understand the daily battles people face every day and knowing that there is a lot of people out there are willing to help make the world a better place. My ambitions for public service has elevated, I continued on my humanitarian work and in the autumn of 2020, ten elementary students that lives below the poverty line will receive free lunch and each school year ten new students will be added to the program.